Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Home

11 weeks after we left, we are finally back home at 6p, 17 hours after leaving our apartment this morning.

As promised, I stayed up all night, watched MNF and the driver was right on time at 7a. We overwhelmed him with 8 suitcases!

Paris cried when we left. It was the ugliest, drizzliest day of our stay.

Flights went off without a hitch and we are now in the Continental presidential lounge waiting for our connection.

As you may know if you read the beginning of this blog, I used frequent flyer miles to purchase first class tickets. It will be SO hard to go back to "steerage." :)

In addition to large seats that recline all the way back and foot rests that extend and the private video screen that pops out of the arm rest, the food and service are amazing.

Let's see Six course lunch. 2 gin and tonics. Grand marnier in the hot tea. Amaretto on the vanilla ice cream and carmel topping. And scotch for a capper. All on request for free.

Plus you board and depart first. Baggage comes out first.

And all this for just double frequent flyer miles on continental (100,000).

I have a dozen or so posts to catch up on so even though we're home, I'll still be making some final posts.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Final Day in Paris

Today was our last day in Paris.

That is both a good thing and a sad thing.

Certainly, I think we are ready to be home. We have been here long enough that the first thing on our mind when we wake up is no longer what new thing are we going to do today.

On the other hand, it is always a little sad to say goodbye to something you've grown accustomed to and say goodbye to the few casual friends we have made here.

The first thing we did today was revisit Luxembourg Gardens.




The leaves on the trees are now mostly gone and new flowers for the winter have been planted. It's still an amazing place to visit and, despite the chilly sub-50 degree temperatures, there were still people bundled up sitting around the grassy areas.

We then made one final walk down Blvd St Michel to visit Notre Dame. We wanted to visit the crypt but it was closed on Mondays (!) so we just went inside. We did get to visit the Treasury of Notre Dame which contains some ancient relics. That was pretty cool.

Amanda then did some shopping and returned home while I finally made it to the Montparnasse Tower to go to the top for my long awaited panoramic view of Paris from the 59th floor. Fortunately, the weather this morning was perfectly clear despite the rain forecast. By the time I got to the top of the tower, it had become partly cloudy but the visibility was still good.

It was windy and cold at the top but the view was great. The towers sits in the south side of Paris so the views north, east, and west are great. There isn't much to see to the south. I created a panoramic image stitched together from 6 individual pictures. It's not a very clean stitch but you still get the idea. The dark sections in the sky are not rain or storms, but where the pictures were stitched together because the left edge of my images was darker. You will need to click on the picture to enlarge (it's very large). I will post a separate article with more pictures later.




I then met Amanda at the Beer Academy for one final lunch and beer and to say goodbye to Julia. (I made my final stop at The Moose last night to watch Carolina Panthers beat the Arizona Cardinals.)

We returned to the house for the remainder of the afternoon so I could get some work done and Amanda could begin packing.

At 7p, Cedric the Manager showed up to refund our deposit and reimburse for the plumber (I talked about my nightmare plumber experience earlier.) Fortunately that went smoothly. We also learned that the owner of the apartment, Eva Darlan, is a French Actress (you can Google her) but she just sold the apartment for 500,000 Euros which apparently is a bargain. Apartments in this part of Paris sell for 10,000 Euros per square meter! That works out to about $1300/sq ft! Our apartment is 90 sq meters (about 1000 sq ft) which means it normally would sell for 900,000 Euros but the new owner got it for 500,000.

Finally, we dressed up and had a fine dinner at Closerie des Lilas. According to Frommers:

Opened in 1847, the Closerie was a social and culinary magnet for the avant-garde. The famous people who have sat in the "Pleasure Garden of the Lilacs" include Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Ingres, Henry James, Chateaubriand, Picasso, Hemingway, Apollinaire, Lenin and Trotsky (at the chessboard), and Whistler.

The food is pricey but quite good. We shared a lobster salad appetizer and both ordered the scallops on risotto.





(The pics are rather poor quality because I had to use the iPhone which doesn't do so well in low light.)

I am hoping to stay up all night (it's already 12:45a here) and catch the car to the airport at 7a for the 10a flight and then sleep on the plane. I can use the time to post some more articles (I am way behind) while watching the 5th game of the World Series and Monday Night Football. Don't know if I will make it but there are a couple Red Bulls in the refrigerator!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lily Allen in Concert at Le Zenith

Last Thursday night, sandwiched between our two-day trip to the Loire Valley and our five-day trip to England, we saw Lily Allen in concert at Le Zenith, the same 6000 seat indoor arena located in Parc de la Villette on the northeast side of Paris where we saw Fleetwood Mac the previous Saturday night.




One could hardly have a larger contrast betweeen performances. Fleetwood Mac has been an intact band since 1975, when Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined the band 10 years before Lily Allen was even born. Who knows how many concerts they have performed in 35 years.

Lily Allen, on the other hand, after being discovered on MySpace 4 years ago, has two albums out, and this was the first stop on a European Tour that would end up back in England where she is from. It was also the first concert she has done with a full stage set and backup band. I don't know what she did in South America last month where she did a few shows, nor what she has done in her previous shows in England.... I guess she just used recorded music.

I became a fan of hers earlier this year after hearing the song The Fear on XM Radio.

Having heard her in concert now, I must say there is something irresistable about this girl. She is naughty but naive, rebellious but not angry, childish but fearless, and vulgar but... well, just vulgar.

Even her ridiculous song F*** You, directed at George Bush, is sung almost light-heartedly (unlike the defiant anger of, say, the Dixie Chick's "Not Ready to Make Nice"), which makes it all the more effective in a sense (although as political commentary it is a pretty air-brained song).

Then again, maybe she's just a 24 year old train wreck waiting to happen, although I doubt she'll go the way of Amy Winehouse, at least I hope not. Whichever, she sure doesn't have much trouble getting her name and picture in the news. She certainly is not boring.

For me, she is a welcome contrast to the "angry white chick" phase of the late 90s (personified best by Alanis Morrisette) and I find her music refreshing and fun to listen to.

We got to the Zenith really early and were able to get on the floor about 7 rows back from the stage.

A British group called Just Jack opened at 8p in front of a simple black curtain. I had never heard of them but they were actually quite good. Here is their last song (not my video):



After a wait, it was time for Lily. The black curtain rose to expose a stage set reminiscent of a cabaret show. The middle of the stage was lighted steps with the drummer on the upper left, keyboard on the upper right, bass lower left, and lead guitar lower right with a simple microphone middle front and three large video screens in the back.




The show started with her rising up through the floor at the top of the steps. The music was a little too amped up at the start so it was hard to hear her but they seemed to get things balanced out after a few songs.



Her outfit was jaw-dropping amazing... black and white striped one-piece leotard cut down to her navel with black hose and knee-high boots combined with a nice short bob hairstyle (which soon became a little messy... she kept playing with it), heavy mascara and a black widow spider painted to the side of her left eye. Are you kidding me? Ok, maybe "amazing" isn't everyone's opinion (see these comments about her appearance), but "jaw-dropping" describes my initial reaction perfectly.

One British tabloid referred to her as a "mint humbug." I didn't know what a mint humbug was so I looked it up and couldn't stop laughing. What do you think?




She said right off that she had been nursing a sore throat and had been at the doctor all week (not a great way to kick off a tour) but, get this, she decided to smoke her way all through the concert. I also read later that the liquid in the cup attached to her microphone stand wasn't water but white wine! Now what kind of crazy performer nursing a sore throat at the beginning of a concert tour would smoke and drink during the show?

The British tabloids had a field day with her flouting the "no-smoking-in-public-places" law that went into effect in Paris this year. (See here, here, and here.) At one point she lost her lighter and someone on the front row threw her his. He wanted it back and she said she couldn't throw it because it might, like, kill him or something and then she would be liable. Cute. So she left it on the front of the stage for him to get later.

I actually think she was a little nervous. She confused the order of the songs early on (despite having the song list taped to the floor right in front of her!), announcing that she was about to sing one song before the lead guitarist corrected her. (By the way, all her musicians were men old enough to be her dad.... or boyfriend!)

She giggled a lot between songs and expressed amazement at the big screens behind her, further evidence that this concert was a step up for her. Otherwise, she was pretty casual -- lighting her cigarettes, strolling the stage, dancing a little but not in a choreographed way... she was just having fun. I liked her being unpolished.

She completed her set in about 1½ hours but came back (wearing a black and white print baby-doll top over boy shorts) with a couple songs including a darn good rendition of Britney Spears' "Womanizer."




All in all, I could've listened to her all night... it ended way too early. I love her breathy voice. I can't wait till she comes to the States.

More pics from the show at LilyPics.org. I took a lot of pics but they all came out terrible as did the videos.

Another nice blog review here (where I got the two videos).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

7 Dollars a Gallon!

Last week we took a 2 day tour to the Loire valley and then early this week we visited England. Both trips required renting a car, first for two days and then for 3.

Gas prices in France were 1.33 EUROS per litre.

At current exchange rates (1.4762 dollars to the Euro) and at 3.785 liters to a gallon, that works out to 1.33 x 1.4762 x 3.785 = $7.43/gallon.

In England, the price was 1.099 POUNDS per litre. The current exchange rate is 1.6374 dollars to a pound. This converts to $6.81/gallon.

Last year, gas prices in the US reached $4/gallon and Americans moaned (and finally started changing their transportation decisions). The price has dropped back to the mid $2 range now so it is about 1/3 the price in Europe which is about what it has always been it seems.

According to AAA Fuel Gauge Report (which lists the average price of gas every day), we are at $2.68/gallon.

You can compare prices for different countries here.

The reason for the difference in prices is almost entirely due to government policy; that is, gas taxes. The average gas tax (state plus federal) is about $.47 in the US. About 75% of the price of gas in France is tax.

No wonder they drive such little cars here!

Daylight Savings Time

In 2006, the US Congress changed Daylight Savings Time so that it begins the first Sunday in March (instead of the 4th) and ends the first Sunday in November (instead of the 4th Sunday in October).

However, most of the rest of the world (including Europe) stuck with the old schedule.

What that means is that there are 4 weeks out of the year (3 weeks in March and one week at the end of October/beginning of November) in which the normal time zone differences are off by one.

Last weekend, Daylight Savings Time ended in Europe and the clocks rolled back an hour. However, it doesn't change in the US till this weekend.

Thus, for this week only (and for 3 weeks in March) there is only a 5 hour difference between Paris and home (EST) when normally there is a 6 hour difference.

Daylight Savings Time Around the World

Beer Status

By the way, just in case anyone noticed, I gave up on my beer count quite a while ago.

To recap for those who didn't read the beginning of the blog, I had only had one beer in my life (and that was only two years ago on my daughter's 21st birthday) before coming to Paris.

I decided I no longer wanted to be a 49 year old beer virgin and posted pictures of each new beer I tried. I quit posting after beer 18 I think it was (I'm too lazy to re-read my own old posts to verify!).

But that doesn't mean I have quit drinking beer!

I probably have one pint a day of something.

I would guess I have had 35 different beers since I have been here and close to 100 beers total.

I'm kind of getting used to it. It's hard to imagine having a meal without one now.

My favorites:

Newcastle Brown Ale
Maredsous
Grimbergen
Karmeliet

Chateaux de Chaumont and d'Amboise

After leaving Blois on our way to Tours along the Loire River, we passed two other chateaux that would have been nice to visit but time did not allow.

Each chateau was on the south side of the river and we passed on the north and stopped long enough to take a picture.

Château de Chaumont




Château d'Amboise

Chateau de Blois

Chateau de Blois, located in Blois, is famous for being the residence of several French kings (Louis XII, Francois I, Henry IV, Henry V) as well as the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English from Orléans.

It has 3 distinct buildings:

1. The Louis XII castle purchased in 1391.
2. The Francois I wing in the 16th Century
3. The Gaston d'Orléans wing, never completed, in the 17th Century

Adjacent to, but below the Chateau, is the Church of St Nicolas, a 12th century structure on the grounds of a former Benedictine Abbey.

Back of the Gaston d'Orleans wing (large building on the left half of the image), with the Church of St Nicolas immediately to the right and the St Louis Cathedral to the far right taken from the south side of the Loire River.




Closer picture of the back of the Gaston d'Orleans wing with the Church of St Nicolas on the right taken from the south side of the Loire River.




The facade and front courtyard of the original castle purchased by Louis XII in 1391 facing east.




The inner courtyard with the Francois Wing to the right and the unfinished Gaston d'Orleans wing to the left.




Perhaps the most famous feature in the entire chateau is the spiral staircase.




The Francois wing has the most history and drama, being the residence of Francois I, Henry III, and Henry IV. It was in this building that the Duke of Guise was assassinated. Henry IV's wife, Marie de Medici, who was responsible for the construction of Luxembourg Palace and Gardens in Paris, died here.

This is the back of the Francois wing looking east over the city of Blois with the top of the St Louis Cathedral in the distance.




King's bedroom in Francois Wing with Henry IV initial in the floor tiles




Queen's bedroom in Francois Wing (yes, that's Amanda)




Gallery in Francois Wing




King Henry and Catherine's logo (H superimposed with overlapping C and reverse C)




Looking east over the city to the St Louis Cathedral




Looking south to the Church of St Nicolas and the Loire River




For more images, see this gallery of 261 high resolution pictures taken in April, 2009. (not mine)

Chartres Cathedral

The Chartres Cathedral, located in Chartres 50 miles southwest of Paris, is a massive Roman Catholic cathedral considered one of France's best examples of Gothic architecture (along with Notre Dame in Paris).

Unlike Notre Dame, however, which resides in the very heart of Paris on Ile de la Cite and is therefore not visible until you are right upon it unless seen from an elevated position, Chartres Cathedral towers above the much smaller city and can be seen for miles around across the wheat fields.






The current structure (the fourth) was built in the 12th-13th centuries (about the same time as Notre Dame) and was one of the first to include flying buttresses.

These are the dimensions:

length: 130 metres (430 ft)
width: 32 metres (100 ft) / 46 metres (150 ft)
nave: height 37 metres (120 ft); width 16.4 metres (54 ft)
Ground area: 10,875 square metres (117,060 sq ft)
Height of south-west tower: 105 metres (340 ft)
Height of north-west tower: 113 metres (370 ft)
176 stained-glass windows
rood screen: 200 statues in 41 scenes

If interested you can read more detailed facts about the history and architecture at Wikipedia.

The entrance to the church faces southwest with contrasting towers. You can climb the left tower via narrow spiral stairs.




Large rose stained glass window at the rear of the church.




Massive columns supporting the nave (Amanda is standing next to it) with another rose window in the northwest chapel.




Row of jamb statues along the south transept (see more about jamb statues at Chartres here). These statues are above small doorways (I think they must have been really short 800 years ago!) and are amazingly intricate.






Facing the front of the cathedral from the altar.




Spiral stairs in the left (west) tower.




Flying buttresses supporting the left side (northwest) of the church (taken from the left tower)




Gargoyle on the left tower




Gargoyles on the front of the two towers. The "dog" at the top center is actually on the right tower while the lower two are on the left tower.




Roof from the left (west) tower looking out over the city to the east.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chateau-A-Rama

In Charlotte every fall for as long as I can remember (and I have lived in Charlotte for 22 years), the Homebuilders Association of Charlotte hosts a Home A Rama, a self-guided tour of luxury custom homes by local builders. It is a fun opportunity to see the latest features, styles, and designs in the most expensive homes.

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, Amanda and I visited the Loire Valley southwest of France for our own little Chateaux A Rama to see the oldest features, styles, and designs in the various "homes" of French Royalty.

Specifically, our tour included stops at:

1. Chartres Cathedral (ok, technically not a "Chateau" but still pretty impressive)
2. Château de Blois
3. Chateau de Valmer (Amanda's dad's name, so we had to check it out!)
4. Château de Chenonceau
5. Château de Chambord

Additionally, we saw Château de Chaumont and Château d'Amboise on the road along the Loire River on the way to Tours but we did not stop to visit them.

Our tour began by taking the RER B to Orly Airport south of Paris, where we picked up our rental car.

We traveled to Chartres, Blois, and Tours on the first day, spending the night at the lovely faux-chateau hotel Domaine de Beauvois in Luynes, just outside of Tours, where we also had a great dinner.

The second day, we headed back to Paris, stopping by Chenonceaux and Chambord.

The roads in France are perfectly fine, although be prepared to pay tolls on the major autoroutes (roads prefixed with "A"). Also, do not miss an exit (or take the wrong exit!) as it will likely be some time before you find another to turn around.

Finally, traffic near Paris is hell and gas is expensive ($8/gallon).

This is a map of our itinerary. Click on a placemark to see the label. I will post separately on each stop.


View Loire Valley Chateaux in a larger map

Monday, October 19, 2009

Paris Weather

We chose September and October both to miss the August tourist peak and to take advantage of the mild weather.

Unfortunately, the weather is getting a little TOO mild for our taste.

The average high temperature for the first 10 days of October ranged from 62 to 77 degrees which was very nice. What I didn't realize is that was 10 degrees warmer than normal. In fact, the 77 degrees on Oct 7 was a record for that day by 8 degrees!

The last 9 days however have returned to Paris normal, which means an average high of about 54 with an average low of 41. This included a low of 33(!) on the 15th, which also was a record by 6 degrees for that day.

So this month we have experienced a record daily high and daily low by significant margins.

The average high for the remainder of our trip will drop from 52 to 48 and the low will drop from 41 to 38.

Compared to Charlotte, where we are from, Paris runs 8-14 degrees cooler (with the biggest differences in the summer months) but during the winter, Charlotte's lows are about the same as Paris. Each city's average winter lows are around freezing but Charlotte gets about 8-10 degrees warmer during the day, probably due to more sunshine during the winter months.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bowling In Mouffetard

After Brittain left last weekend, she sent me a text indicating that there was a bowling alley in Mouffetard, a old, lively, popular district in the 5th arrondissement, known for its market, restaurants and cafes.

Sure enough Bowling Mouffetard exists, albeit only 8 lanes two stories underground after you exit the main road through an arched passageway at 73 Rue Mouffetard.

Amanda and I took a brief visit after lunch yesterday and I took the following picture with my iPhone. This is not a serious bowling alley with leagues and such; it is clearly designed purely as entertainment along the lines of putt-putt and and other arcade games.




I did a little more research and there are additional bowling alleys in Paris, including one right across the street from Pere Lachaise Cemetery and another a block from Montparnasse Cemetery.

Remaining Schedule

With 2½ weeks to go, this is our remaining schedule:

Loire Valley Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct 20-21)

We will pick up a rental car at Orly Airport early Tuesday morning and drive the couple hours to the Loire Valley southwest of Paris. We will spend the night at Domaine de Beauvois and return Wednesday night.

Lily Allen Concert Thursday night at Le Zenith (Oct 22)

England Friday through Tuesday (Oct 23-27)

We will fly to London and spend two nights then drive to Holbeach, Lincolnshire, England to visit Amanda's aunt and cousins. (Amanda was born in England, which is where her mother is from).

When we return, we will have less than one week left to see the rest of Paris.

No More Visitors

With the departure of Christina, Angela, and Kent this morning, the 6 week gauntlet of visitors is finished. I can't quite believe we pulled it off.

As nice as it was to hang out with each set of guests in Paris, it will be relaxing to finally be back to just me and Amanda for the final 2½ weeks.

Under even the best of circumstances (and this was pretty good circumstances!), it can be stressful to host friends and family in close quarters and adapt to each others quirks and personalities, especially when everyone is outside their normal routine.

Knowing what we know now, I would still like to have visitors if we take an extended trip again (which I hope we do), but we decided we need to space them out at least a week apart instead of having one set of visitors arrive just as the previous is leaving just so we can catch our breath.

Christina, Angela, Kent Leave

Christina, Angela and Kent (Christina's boyfriend) left this morning, getting up at 6a to leave by 7a.

Having already been here almost 8 weeks when they arrived, they pretty much did everything on their own, seeing most of the sites one should see for one week in Paris, capped off by a Fleetwood Mac concert last night.

Angela, as usual, enjoyed the shopping more than the monuments, while Kent enjoyed the technical and historical sites (including the Science Museum at Park Villette, while Christina wanted to stay up late and explore the night life.

Fleetwood Mac in Concert

Last night was our 6th concert in Paris: Fleetwood Mac at Le Zenith, which included Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie.




Le Zenith is located in the 19th arrondissement, in the extreme northeast part of Paris on the grounds of La Villette park, the largest landscaped park in Paris.

The concert was scheduled to start at 8p but we (Amanda, Christina, Angela, Kent and myself) had dinner with Alex and Andrea (who had just returned from Japan) at Les Fountains near the Pantheon, not far from our apartment.

We figured if we left the restaurant at 7:30, we could get to the concert just in time.

We figured wrong.

I'm not sure it's possible to complete a meal for 7 people in 90 minutes in a decent restaurant in Paris. So, while the dinner and company were great, we didn't leave the restaurant until 8p and had a minimum 30 minute metro ride to the grounds of the concert.

Of course, as fate would have it, the metro line we chose ended prematurely, halfway to our destination. Apparently, all stops after Republique were inactive due to repair work so we had to disembark and re-route through a couple other lines which eventually got us to the park a little before 9p and it took us almost 15 minutes to find Le Zenith, where we had floor standing tickets.

I had 6 tickets but because one of Christina's friends couldn't make the trip to Paris, I had an extra which I thought I would sell at the arena but arriving late made that difficult. Fortunately, some lonely scalper offered me 10 EUR just as I arrived, which I quickly and happily scooped up. 10 EUR is better than nothing although the tickets were 45 EUR.

Le Zenith only holds 6,000 people which I thought absurdly small for a group the stature of Fleetwood Mac. Coldplay sold out 50,000 seats at Parc de Prince. Green Day sold out 20,000 at Bercy. Surely Fleetwood Mac has their status, no?

I mean I saw Fleetwood Mac in Charlotte in April at Time Warner Cable Arena, which holds almost 20,000. (By the way, do you think Amanda and I were the only two people to see Fleetwood Mac both in Charlotte and Paris?)

I guess Fleetwood Mac is just not that well-known or popular in France.

In any case, we arrived a little after 9p and the band was already playing. I didn't know if there was an opening act so I wasn't sure how long they had been on stage. However, from some of their remarks (Buckingham: "so glad to be back in Paris after 20 years", Nicks: "Last time I think we were drunk. I was coming back to Paris if I was going to stand on a street corner and sing"), it appeared they hadn't been playing long.

While we were at the back of the floor, we were still much closer than in Charlotte. Le Zenith was designed first and foremost as a concert arena so it has good sight lines and sound but it was still a little strange seeing Fleetwood Mac in such a small setting.

The stage set and lighting were minimal compared to the concert in Charlotte and the crowd was definitely older.

They played till almost 11p, including the encores, giving us almost 2 hours of music so I don't think we missed too much of the early part of the show. The last song they played was one of their most enduring, Don't Stop. Unfortunately, the keyboard player ran into some technical problems, causing them to restart the song twice (after a technician came on stage to fix the problem), which prompted Stevie Nicks to lightheartedly say something like: "If this was an acoustic band, this wouldn't happen. But as soon as you plug something in, you have these kinds of problems."

As was the case in Charlotte, Lindsey Buckingham was really the star although Nicks' voice is the signature of the band. It was their addition in 1975 that changed the band from blues to pop rock and launched their stardom when I was in high school!

All in all a good show but I was a little scattered due to the hectic schedule getting there and didn't feel too motivated to take a lot of pictures or record any audio/video as I've done with earlier shows so I mostly just enjoyed the show.

Here are a couple of pics I took of the stage set:


John Belushi Portrait in the Louvre?

While visiting the Louvre on Wednesday, I ran across the following portrait.




What the heck is a portrait of John Belushi doing in the Louvre?





This is the full clip from Animal House:



Actually, the portrait is of Emperor Domitian by Domenico Fetti.

Had me fooled for a second.

Friday, October 16, 2009

And on Day 58.... the Eiffel Tower

While our guests had visited the Eiffel Tower (or, Tour Eiffel), we had deferred until my daughters visited. We were only going to go up once!

So, on day 58, we finally made it. Fortunately, we had a clear day in the midst of what turned out to be a largely dreary week weather-wise.

We tried to get there early on a chilly morning but we didn't make it till about 10a. The line was long but moved fast. Only the east tower was open unless you wanted to walk to the top on the south tower. Tickets to level 2 are 8 EUR. If you want to go to the top, it's an additional 5 EUR (13 EUR total).

We've been to the top maybe 3 other times on previous trips but never in the morning. The best feature of morning visits is the shadow of the Eiffel Tower over the Trocadero.

The Eiffel Tower is the most visited paid monument in the world (almost 7 million per year). At 1063 ft tall, it was the tallest structure in the world when it was built as the entrance arch for the 1889 World's Fair. Controversial at the time, it has become a universally recognized icon of Paris and even France.

It is difficult to assess the size of the structure from a distance (and it IS viewable from everywhere in Paris unless obstructed by a building); it is only when you are under it that you are really amazed.

Having been in Paris for 8 weeks, many of the landmarks are recognizable now and it is fun to place everything in perspective from above, from the Hippodrome Longchamps in Bois de Bologne, to La Defense, to Avenue Montaigne, to the Arc de Triomphe and Palais des Congres, to Place de la Concorde, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, Pantheon, Val de Grace (two blocks from our apartment), Luxembourg Gardens, the Grand Palais and the nearby Napoleon's Tomb.

You can also look down into the courtyards of the nearby apartment buildings. From the street level you only see the facades of the buildings but each one has an inner courtyard creating its own little sanctuary or fortress from the outside world that are rarely visible to outsiders.

These are a few of the better pictures I took mostly from the second level (as my camera battery died on the top level!).

Shadow of tower across Seine River to Trocadero (NW)



Montmartre and Sacre Coeur in the distance with Pont Alma in the foreground and Avenue Montaigne pointing toward Sacre Coeur beginning at end of the bridge (NE)



Champs des Mar with Montparnasse Tower in the distance (SE)



Looking up at the Eiffel Tower from Level 2



Montmartre and Sacre Coeur (NE)



Man looking SE towards Montparnasse Tower



La Defense (NW)



Shadow of tower over Trocadero with La Defense in the distance



Seine River to the southwest. At the end of the artificial island in the middle (Ile aux Cygnes) is the model replica of the Statue of Liberty



A wider view of the Seine River facing southwest with Ile aux Cygnes in the middle



Champs des Mar (SE)